Brendan Rodgers praises Gerrard’s pivotal role in Liverpool’s title bid
Manager says his skipper is currently the best holding midfielder in Europe
Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard: “There’s not many players who can do what he can do – be one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe and then switch to be arguably the best controlling player,” says Brendan Rodgers. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Brendan Rodgers believes Steven Gerrard’s leadership skills have taken the focus from his outstanding form during Liverpool’s title challenge and insisted he would not swap his captain for any holding player in Europe.
The 33-year-old has been instrumental in Liverpool’s surge for a first league title since 1990 having adapted superbly to the holding midfield role he was given by Rodgers in January. Gerrard’s influence at Liverpool was demonstrated again following last Sunday’s crucial victory over Manchester City when he called his team-mates into a huddle and demanded they “go again” at Norwich City tomorrow.
But the midfielder’s influence on the pitch is arguably greater than it has been for several seasons and Rodgers believes Gerrard’s tactical and technical ability is overlooked.
“I think his form sometimes gets lost a wee bit with Steven because his leadership quality in the team is there for all to see,” the Liverpool manager said. “We mustn’t forget that he’s arguably the best in European football in a controlling role at this moment in time.
“There’s not many players who can do what he can do – be one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe and then switch to be arguably the best controlling player. You look at the holding players in European football now at the top teams, I wouldn’t swap him for any of them, because of what he can give the team.
“He’s a playmaker but he’s unique in that he can also defend. I think what he probably doesn’t get enough credit for as well is his reading of the game . . .
“But the feature now is about the team and he’s in a structure he’s happy with. He’s got some top talents around him that can exploit his qualities and along with his intelligence and reading of the game, his physical condition in the role is very good as well. I could see him playing in there because of those playmaking skills. He can orchestrate the game.”
Liverpool’s midfield will change at Carrow Road tomorrow when Jordan Henderson starts a three-match suspension for the red card he received against Manchester City. Henderson has been ever-present in the Premier League this season and Rodgers admits the ban is “heartbreaking for him, considering the season he’s had”.
“He’s such an honest guy and he actually got the ball first but we’ve spoken about it and he understands the reasons why he got sent off, which was really unfortunate.
“But Jordan will still travel with the team. I’ve told him he’s a vital member of the group and he might not be able to affect the next three games on the field but he’s going to be very important for our changing room, our travelling and our hotels because he’s very much a part of us.
“We’ll lose him on the field but we can’t lose his personality off the field as well which is why he’ll still travel and be a part of what we’re doing.”
With striker Daniel Sturridge doubtful with a slight hamstring strain, Liverpool’s squad could be stretched further than it has been for months against Norwich but Rodgers has backed midfield performers such as Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva to compensate.
“The players coming in will be fine,” added the manager. “They’ve been preparing and it will be testament to their professionalism. I’ve said all along that the hardest part of my job is seeing 21 players being absolutely brilliant for me in training every day but I can only start 11 of them and pick a squad of 18.
“I’ve said to them all along that the reasons why you stay professional and keep super fit is that your chance will come and however it may come you’ve got to be ready.
“I think we’ve seen that already with guys like Lucas who came in against West Ham and looked fit and strong, guys like Joe Allen who has unfortunately been out of the team but when he came in last week he made a contribution. I’ve got no worries about that.”